A tall statue of Robert E. Lee, the general who led Confederate troops during the U.S. Civil War of the 1860s, was removed from its prominent spot in the southeastern city of Richmond, Virginia, Wednesday morning.
The removal of the 12-ton, 6.4-meter-tall bronze statue of Lee riding a horse comes just over a year after Virginia Governor Ralph Norman announced plans to take it down amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died in police custody in Minnesota. Floyd’s death sparked protests calling for social and racial justice worldwide.
The governor’s plans were delayed by a handful of lawsuits by local residents opposed to the statue’s removal. The lawsuits were dismissed by the state Supreme Court last week.
The statue was erected in 1890 in Virginia’s capital city, which also served as the capital of the Confederate States of America, a coalition of 11 southern states that broke away from the United States shortly after the election of Abraham Lincoln as president. The Confederates seceded from the U.S. in order preserve the practice of enslaving Black people.
Critics regard Lee’s statue and those of other figures of the Confederacy as symbols of racism and white supremacy. The 12-meter tall pedestal on which Lee’s statue sits has been defaced by graffiti since last year’s protests.